Editorial: Magazines and Parts Prices

Moss Motors ferrets out the best possible prices for our customers, even when that means squirreling away less profit.

Love of British sportscars aside, Moss Motors customers have another common denominator: They aren’t shy. You let us know in no uncertain terms what you thought about our abbreviated edition of British Motoring.

That issue was an attempt at making the best of a difficult situation: Last fall, the U.S. dollar began to depreciate compared to the British pound. In September, a pound could be had for about $1.57. By November, a pound cost around $1.70, a 12% increase in a few weeks. The pound surpassed $1.90 in February 2004—approximately a 20% increase in six months. Moss Motors chose to maintain its existing prices through much of this turbulence, even after our competitors had raised theirs. In order to absorb this hit on all England-sourced parts, the company cut corners in other areas—including the employee holiday party and British Motoring package size.

We weren’t thrilled about attaching the British Motoring logo to a five-page editorial section followed by a seasonal sale notice. Alternate titles along the lines of Moss Gazette & Sale Flier were considered but ultimately vetoed in favor of continuing to produce four publications flying the British Motoring banner every year.

On the surface, the magazine is a money pit: Our limited advertising opportunities are by invitation only, and the token $10 fee collected for each classified ad covers only a fraction of those pages’ paper and printing costs. But like strategic event sponsorship, we feel that the positive vibes generated by informing and hopefully entertaining Moss customers pay off over time. Moss’s phenomenally successful MGB supercharger kit is a prime example. The system was unveiled in British Motoring a year ago, and people who read that article are continuing to buy the kit. (A supercharger isn’t an impulse-buy for the average MGB owner.)

Truth In Advertising

Magazines and parts prices have been linked since shortly after Hot Rod debuted in 1948 (coincidentally, the same year that Moss Motors was founded). In the early days of automotive-enthusiast publishing, the two best ways for a parts company to get its phone ringing were by advertising a better mousetrap that solved problems or by advertising attractive prices. Pricing has been a Catch-22 since. Before our economy went global, companies improved their profit margins by implementing more efficient ways to do business. Parts prices remained relatively stable and would even come down when competition increased. Price-matching evolved as one way to attract and retain customers.

The advent of global economics introduced volatility into the system. Even though your replacement springs may have the Union Jack on their label, they might be manufactured with Korean steel these days. Labor unrest there, political turmoil, or even natural disasters can cause the cost of the raw materials to increase. Ultimately, the customer bears the burden of the higher costs.

The average consumer doesn’t care what happens behind the scenes. For example, a few years ago while working at a different magazine, I got a call from an irate reader. He was incensed because an advertiser wouldn’t sell him a part at the price advertised in the magazine. He wanted the magazine’s editor and publisher to intervene and demand that the company sell him the part at the advertised price. After holding the phone a foot away from my left ear for 10 minutes, I finally asked the reader which issue and page the ad was on. His demeanor changed: “Well, it’s in this issue from six years ago. But that shouldn’t matter. They advertised that price, so legally they should have to sell it to me for that.” A decade later, I’m still awaiting that promised subpoena to testify in his court case.

This long-winded editorial strives to serve two purposes: 1) British Motoring was downsized due to strong foreign currency. We’re planning four “full” magazines for 2005; with any luck our Fall ’04 issue won’t be another abbreviated version. 2) Moss Motors prices are subject to change without notice. Dollar values in these pages are only guaranteed through the published cut-off date. For up-to-date prices and promotions, look for Moss email notices and visit www.mossmotors.com often.

Regrettably, Moss Motors was recently forced to raise prices on some of the British-bred parts. But the worst seems to be past, and the British pound carries less weight right now. We’ll roll with the blows and continue working hard to make British Motoring the best it can be.

—Tom Morr

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